U.S. PRESIDENTS (1735–1826); BRAINTREE, MASSACHUSETTS
In addition to being the United States’s second president after George Washington, John Adams was a prominent lawyer and political author. He’s also remembered for the people he surrounded himself with, including his wife, Abigail Adams; his son and sixth president, John Quincy Adams; and his infamous rivalry with Thomas Jefferson. Find out more about one of America's most important Founding Fathers.
1. John Adams’s vice president was his rival, Thomas Jefferson.
Prior to 1804, it was much easier to elect presidents and vice presidents that didn’t share political views. In the case of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, they didn’t even have to like each other. Early election laws automatically awarded the office of vice president to the runner-up in the presidential election. So when the Federalist John Adams beat Democratic-Republican and notorious rival Thomas Jefferson, the pair ended up one step away from one another on the line of succession. Adams and Jefferson did eventually land on friendly terms—12 years after the bitter 1800 election that made their feud infamous.
2. John Adams's wife, Abigail Adams, wrote him letters urging him to fight for women’s equality.
Before first ladies were expected to be politically active, Abigail Adams used her proximity to the president to crusade for women’s rights. In one letter she wrote to her husband, dated March 31, 1776, Abigail wrote: “...in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors...If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”
John and Abigail Adams held a mutual respect for one another, and the president often sought his wife’s counsel on political matters. Between 1762 and 1801, their correspondence would span more than 1000 letters.
3. During John Adams's presidency, he was part of the federalist political party.
At the start of America’s history, there were two main political parties: the Democratic-Republicans and the Federalists. The former party favored individual freedom and state’s rights while the latter believed in having a strong central government. John Adams belonged to the Federalist party, and he was the only member of the party to ever become president. Other famous federalists included John Jay and Alexander Hamilton.
4. One of John Adams’s children, John Quincy Adams, became president.
John Adams and Abigail Adams had six children together, four of whom lived to adulthood. One daughter, Susanna, died at the age of 1, while another daughter, Elizabeth, was stillborn in 1777. In total, the Adams children included:
- Abigail Amelia Adams (1765-1813)
- John Quincy Adams (1767-1848)
- Grace Susanna “Suky” Adams (1768 -1770)
- Charles Adams (1770-1800)
- Thomas Boylston Adams (1772–1832)
- Elizabeth Adams (1777)
John Quincy Adams was the most successful of the clan, becoming president in 1825, 24 years after his father left office. They would remain the country’s only father-son presidential duo until George W. Bush followed in his father’s footsteps and became president in 2000.
5. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826.
John Adams died at age 90 on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of America’s independence. In case that wasn’t weird enough, he shared his death date with another Founding Father. Just a few hours before Adams’s death, his political adversary Thomas Jefferson passed away at age 83. Unaware of his rival’s passing, John Adams uttered these final words: “Thomas Jefferson survives.”
6. John Adams’s house is a national park.
John Adams was born on farmhouse in Braintree, Massachusetts, on October 30, 1735. The house was a saltbox home, named so for the slanted roof resembling a colonial kitchen saltbox. The property is also home to the birthplace of John Quincy Adams. The family owned the homes and rented them to tenants until 1893 when they were opened to the public as house museums. Today, it's part of John Adams National Historical Park, a site where tourists can learn about the Adams family and experience their lives in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Famous John Adams Quotes.
- "Instead of being the ardent pursuer of science that some think him, I know he is indolent, and his soul is poisoned with ambition.” (on Thomas Jefferson)
- "I pray heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but the wise men ever rule under this roof." (on the White House)
- “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right, from the frame of their nature, to knowledge, as their great Creator, who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings, and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean, of the characters and conduct of their rulers.”
- “Liberty once lost is lost forever.”
- “Defeat appears to me preferable to total inaction.”